Something magical happens when the sultry hot jazz made famous by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli meets the hard-driving Western swing sound pioneered by Bob Wills and early string bands of the American Southwest. The ear-catching result of this surprising marriage is the Hot Club of Cowtown, the effervescent Austin-based trio beloved for more than two decades by devoted fans across the United States and around the world. Romantic and rhythmic, happy-making and heart-breaking, sophisticated and elegant while still down-to-earth and rugged, the Hot Club of Cowtown now returns with its much-anticipated eleventh album, an enticing new collection of original compositions (plus a few inspired standards) entitled Wild Kingdom (out September 27th).
Whit Smith, the band’s dexterous guitarist, embodies the spirit of early jazz players like Charlie Christian in both his vintage gear and his high-flying fretwork. Upright bass player Jake Erwin is a rhythm powerhouse who keeps the beat with determination and gusto, slapping that bass like it owes him money. Elana James rounds out the trio with sweet, inviting vocals and the astounding fiddle playing that leaves audiences reeling. As the Hot Club of Cowtown, these three talented and charismatic performers have been entertaining audiences for twenty-one years— along the way winning Ameripolitan Awards, touring with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, and representing the United States in international showcases from Azerbaijan to the Sultanate of Oman.
Wild Kingdom is a true marvel, packed with musical virtuosity and dazzling songwriting, anchored by a sound that is both decidedly traditional and wildly original. Certain to delight both their army of seasoned fans and a brand new audience of Hot Club novices, Wild Kingdom is a fitting return to form by one of the most essential bands in traditional American music. With its release, the Hot Club of Cowtown will be proving once more their unparalleled ability to take a diverse range of well-established genres and breathe new life into them through a healthy dose of buoyancy, joy, and blazing virtuosity.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the fun tune “Near Mrs.” The song is a playful romp that offers sly and clever lyrics alongside a sunny and swinging jazz-inflected, fiddle-driven country. With feisty guitar picking and a lyrical nod to a certain Buckaroo, the tune finds Elana James singing in a smooth and airy cadence about relationships that go sour. Calling it a “sort of celebration of failures”, the song encapsulates the chemistry of the musicians and the contagious joy they stir up with their music.
Elana James shares her own thoughts on the inspiration behind the song:
“‘Near Mrs.’ was originally intended to be—and may yet become!—a little picture book chronicling 25 past relationships over as many years—just a way to keep track of them and appreciate the sum total because I love to make lists. As anyone who has not gotten and stayed married at a young-ish age knows, if you are not married or in a longterm relationship, chances are you will date, cross paths with, or become involved with lots of people. Add to that the fact that I have been a full-time touring musician for almost 25 years. I have been well aware of how many chapters there have been, and, ultimately, what a colorful, and in many ways disturbing, collection it is.
So I wanted to put the little book together and I wanted to call it ‘Near Mrs.’, a sort of celebration of failures. I kept not doing it, though, probably because of the emotional exhaustion it would take to actually do it. Then we were putting together songs for this record I though to condense all 25 of them into a song, kind of like singing the index, concentrating it into its purest form. It’s all true, but I had to change the order up a little to make them all fit. Whit and Jake weighed in on an earlier version that numbered every person—they didn’t like that. They said I needed more detail about each one, as in, why should we care? To give them context. And so to do that, and to keep everyone at about ten syllables or less was a great challenge. I also like how it came together naturally as a Texas blues (I do live in Austin), kind of slow and groovy. The melody and chorus just wrote themselves. We cut a first pass with the whole band, including piano and drums, but when I got home and listened to it, it sounded corny to me, a little glib, and I hate corny. The song is sincere, and because of that, it somehow also makes it funny. I figure if it’s been true for me, I know it must be true for other people out there—so here’s to us.”
Wild Kingdom is out on September 27.